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Solar Stewardship Initiative publishes first solar supply chain ESG Standard

The Solar Stewardship Initiative (SSI) has published a solar PV-specific Standard for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) compliance, which independent assessors will use to certify the ESG performance of solar production sites.

According to SolarPower Europe, following the successful conclusion of the SSI pilot and public multi-stakeholder consultation, the new SSI ESG Standard has been published – it’s the first supply chain ESG Standard tailored to the needs of the solar PV sector. The SSI ESG Standard will be complemented by the SSI Supply Chain Traceability Standard in 2024. The SSI is a solar-specific supply chain assurance scheme, working to further develop confidence in how, where, and by whom, solar products are manufactured.

The SSI pilot was conducted over 11 sites in China, Germany, and Norway by independent auditors, testing their performance against the SSI ESG Standard. As part of the SSI’s continual engagement with a wide range of stakeholders, over 20 organisations, including human rights advocates and supply chain experts, provided input to the founding elements of the Initiative through the public consultation.

The SSI is now inviting expressions of interest from civil society and NGOs to join the SSI Stakeholder Advisory Group. Similarly, the Initiative is inviting the first applications to become an SSI member, before its official launch in December 2023.

The new SSI ESG Standard comes following the conclusion of pilot testing and public consultation of the criteria evaluated by the SSI. The SSI ESG Standard is based on existing international standards. For companies active in the solar value chain, the SSI ESG Standard creates a one-stop-shop to independently validate ESG commitment at production sites.

“The new Solar Stewardship Initiative ESG Standard is a true landmark for the solar PV industry. We now have an effective, solar-specific, compass to guide our supply chain sustainability journey. Efforts like the SSI should be recognised formally in upcoming EU legislation, to support the solar sector’s ability to deliver Europe’s sustainability commitments,” said Walburga Hemetsberger, CEO of SolarPower Europe.

Chris Hewett, CEO of Solar Energy UK said, “The speed with which the SSI has been developed has been remarkable - all those involved should be applauded. I look forward to seeing its widespread adoption across the solar industry.”

Key conclusions from the pilot assessments

The pilot assessments of 11 sites across China, Germany, and Norway tested the draft SSI ESG Standard and delivered four key conclusions:

1. The collaborative approach of the SSI, between buyers and suppliers of solar PV modules, was successful. Pilot participants appreciated the exercise to build their ESG know-how. Working together, the sector can do more to deliver on ESG than one company alone.

2. The draft SSI ESG Standard took on revisions to further deepen its effectiveness. Consequently, the eventual SSI ESG Standard has reinforced key areas, including the grievance mechanism, responsible sourcing requirements, working hours, and workplace emergency preparedness.

3. Both the sector, and the SSI, can go even further on supply chain transparency. As part of the process of continual improvement, the SSI will establish a dedicated Supply Chain Traceability Standard in 2024. For now, the SSI can certify a ‘link’ - i.e. a production site - in the solar supply chain. Once the SSI Supply Chain Traceability Standard is published in 2024, the SSI will be able certify exactly how each link is connected, creating the so-called chain of custody.

4. Official recognition in legislation of industry assurance schemes like the SSI will be critical to driving market uptake of the SSI and developing the solar sector’s supply chain ESG credentials.

Alongside the pilot testing of the Standard, the SSI held a public consultation in Q2-3 2023, with respondents indicating that the draft SSI ESG Standard was going in the right direction.


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